Calgary, AB,

Scammers targeting citizens by pretending to be Calgary police

The Calgary Police Service is warning citizens about a new twist on a common scam where Calgarians are targeted by scammers pretending to be Calgary police officers.

In the latest scam, citizens receive a call from someone identifying themselves as working for CPS. The scammer tells the person that one of their friends or family members is currently in custody and to bail them out, they must purchase pre-paid gift cards, most commonly iTunes gift cards. The scammers instruct their victim to stay on the phone while they go and purchase the gift cards and to then provide the scammer with the gift-card activation codes before their loved one is released.

In many of these instances, scammers used an online app to spoof the phone number so it appears the call is coming from either their friend or family member, or the CPS.

In some cases, victims received a call from someone claiming to be delivering a package to a friend or family member prior to the scam phone call where they are then told their friend or family member is in custody. The scammer asks for that person’s cell phone number so they can deliver the package. Scammers are also using spoofing technology in these calls so they appear to be coming from a legitimate delivery company.

As with similar scams, offenders are using very aggressive tactics to pressure victims into providing money. These tactics includes keeping victims on the phone for long periods of time, threats, and harassment through frequent phone calls.

So far this year, victims in Calgary have reported losses totaling $168,000 in scams where victims are asked to purchase pre-paid credit and gift cards. 60 per cent of these losses were in the form of iTunes cards, followed by 31 per cent of losses in the form of Steam cards. The average dollar loss to reported victims of these scams are over $2,500 each.

Citizens should be aware:

  • The Calgary Police Service will never contact family members to solicit bail money for individuals who have been arrested.
  • Citizens will only be contacted by CPS about the arrest of one of their family members if the person in custody is a minor.
  • People who have been charged or are eligible for bail have access to phones to contact their friends and family members.
  • Bail is not managed by the CPS and can only be paid in-person at provincial courthouses or correctional centres. Acceptable forms of payments do not include any form of gift cards, including iTunes gift cards.
  • The CPS will never solicit payments in the form of gift cards.
  • If a citizen receives a call stating that a friend or family member is in custody, they should hang up the phone make attempts to contact that person.
  • As in all cases, if you are told you owe money, never feel pressure to provide payment until you’ve determined if the debt is real. Legitimate requests will not be that urgent.
  • If your workplace sells gift cards be on the lookout for potential victims and inform them about this scam. Victims may seem very stressed and agitated, be on the phone and purchasing a large amount of gift cards.
  • Always report it to police. If you have lost money or been the victim of a legitimate threat, call 403-266-1234.